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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Luke 19

 

 

Verses 1-48

Luke 19:11. He spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, to correct the fond error of those who thought he would reign on earth. This parable therefore differs from that of the talents, in Matthew 25., which was spoken in the temple to denounce judgment on those who had leagued to take away his life. That respected the high endowment of talents, one, two, and five in number. This speaks only of pounds, one of which, the sixtieth part of a talent, was given to each. Yet the rewards and the censures in both the parables are much the same.

Luke 19:12. A certain nobleman went into a far country. “Eugenes” signifies not only noble, but the heir apparent. So the Roman vice-kings went to Rome to be confirmed in their father’s throne. Here is a figure of Christ, entrusting his kingdom in the hands of ministers; and in fact, every christian has some talent, some trust from God. Now the money or talents are of three kinds, natural, acquired, and divine. Our time, our learning, our property and influence are the Lord’s. Ministers especially are stewards of the mysteries of God, and all their talents of wisdom and of eloquence must be employed for his glory.

The pound was given to each, according to this parable, which our Saviour delivered in or near Jerusalem; but in the parable of the talents, similar in substance to this, they were given in the proportion of ten to one. Matthew 25:15. Such may be the difference of men’s abilities: but let not the weakest be discouraged, for it was only the slander of a wicked servant that said, Christ reaps where he has not strawed.

We must be as diligent to improve our talents, as commercial men are to realize fortunes. They watch the markets, travel all weathers, and exhaust their eloquence to make a good bargain. What models for ministers: and surely an idle shepherd is one of the worst of characters.

Every man shall be rewarded according to his work: he that soweth much shall reap much. The reward however is not reckoned of debt, but of grace; yet somehow, the Lord will proportion it to men’s works. He will say, well done good and faithful servant. But ah, how can truth ever say that of me? Oh let my sins be covered, and all my labours sprinkled with atoning blood, that thou mayest applaud thine own work. One of Christ’s ministers is here represented as slothful, and as hiding his talent; for we should be charitable in judging of ministers. Out of such hands he will shortly take his cause, and those who walked not in the light, but dishonoured his name, he will cast into outer darkness, the opposite of those who feast in his presence, surrounded with the brightest beams of light.

Luke 19:13. He called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds. The Roman pound weighed ten ounces and nineteen pennyweights, value in silver, f2 .. 14 .. 9; in gold, f43 .. 16 .. 0. The number ten indicates that noblemen usually had about that number of servants. In Asia they usually keep more servants than in Europe.

Luke 19:24. Take from him the pound. St. Matthew adds, Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth: Matthew 25:28-30. Hear these awful words, thou young man, who hast had all the instructions of the best of parents, but hast made no returns to God. Hear this, oh pastor, whose education and profession bind thee to support the cause of morality and truth; but instead of harvest joy, like the laborious farmer, shame awaits thy sloth, and it may be that outer darkness shall cover thy shame with impervious night.

Luke 19:29. When he was come nigh to Bethphage. See on Matthew 21:1.

Luke 19:41. He beheld the city and wept over it. A certain class of critics would wish to get rid of this passage, because Epiphanius says it was not in some ancient copies. But it occurs twice in Origen, and once in Iræneus, who lived long before that father; and no men were more likely to have correct copies of the scripture than Origen at Alexandria, and Iræneus, who was bishop of Lyons in the year 179. The embarrassment of several commentators on the text is quite amusing. Dr. Lightfoot corrects our Saviour’s mistake, and would paraphrase thus: “If thou couldst have known the things that belong to thy peace.” A second says, Jesus wept because the temple was about to be destroyed. A third says he wept because this siege was against the elect. So Calvin. But a fourth, worse than all the others, for he seems desirous to cast a shade of hypocrisy on the Lord, sooner than endanger his creed, adds, that these were merely human tears! Avaunt, thou lying tongue. Christ has commented on his own words. At the grave of Lazarus, when he wept over those very jews, he says, “Because of the people that stand by I said it, that they may believe.”

John 11:42. St. Paul also weeping, and wishing himself accursed for the same race and age, presently adds, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they may be saved.” This text must be regarded as one of the most important in the sacred scriptures. It teaches us that Jerusalem had a day of grace; that Christ was sincerely desirous of gathering them by conversion into his kingdom, and that man is the sole cause of his own destruction. Besides, the Greek ei is often translated utinam in Latin, implying Christ’s earnest wish for the salvation of his country. So it is in HEINSIUS. Utinam et tu, hoc saltem, inquit, die, noses quæ ad salutem tuam faciunt, aut spectant.

Luke 19:42. If thou hadst known, at least in this thy day. While the people sung hosannas before the great prophet, who had raised Lazarus from the dead, his eyes looked at the future and the past. When he saw the beautiful temple, the populous city, and all the peopled hills which surrounded it; — when he glanced on the holy prophets, who long struggled against the crimes and idolatries of their age, and had shed their blood in the fight; — when he saw the wickedness of the fathers live in their children, and combining to reject and kill the Saviour, his eyes became fountains of tears, while his lips uttered the elegies of his heart. All that love could now do was to grant them a reprieve.

Luke 19:43. Thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee — and keep thee in on every side. When Titus came against this rebellious and hardened city, which refused to open its gates, and submit to mercy; that he might sooner reduce them by famine, he shut up all the five avenues, and raised five barriers at each entrance; and when the jews sallied out, he beat them down, like Cyrus in the siege of Babylon. He threw up a wall or breastwork of thirty nine furlongs in extent, and this line was intersected with thirteen fortified camps for the soldiers, each of which had an area of two furlongs and a half in the square, or ten furlongs in circumference. All these works the Roman army finished in three days. Thus the prophecy of the Saviour was fulfilled to the very letter. What augmented the calamity of the siege was, an excess of population from the country. The young men had been allured to Jerusalem, under the plea of a great passover, and thus were made soldiers. While the Romans battered the walls, all the horrors of famine and disease preyed on the city; yea, one faction fought against the other, till the multitude of people had wasted away. — See Josephus’s Wars of the Jews, book 6. chap. 8.

When the later rabbins reflected on the utter ruin of their nation, they ascribed it to neglect in training up their children, to contempt of public worship, to profanation of the sabbath, and to the supineness of the elders in the suppression of vice. But the oracle of truth ascribes the fall of the city to final impenitence and unbelief, and to blindness of heart. Luke 13:3-5. They knew not the time of their visitation; they shed the blood of the Just and Holy One; therefore wrath came upon them to the uttermost. 1 Thessalonians 2:16.

Luke 19:47-48. The chief priests — could not find what they might do, for all the people were very attentive to hear him. The soul of the people hung upon his lips, as queen Dido hung on the lips of Æneas, while he again related the Trojan disasters.

Pendetque iterum narrantis ab ore. ÆNEID. 4:79.

REFLECTIONS.

Following the Lord in the latter stages of his ministry, we see it all bespangled with glory, as in his early course. On entering the ill-famed town of Jericho, he restored sight to Bartimeus; and before he had gone many paces farther, Zaccheus, the chief of publicans, and the chief of sinners, became a convert to his grace. As Dagon fell before the ark, so this man, small in stature but a tall cedar in iniquity, fell before him, and the deep roots of covetousness were completely eradicated from his heart. This man was odious by his crimes, and more so by his profession, being the collector of the Roman taxes over all the publicans in the city and its vicinity. But not being happy in his sins, and feeling a desire to see Jesus, which he could not do for the crowd, he climbed up into a tree; and surely more than a sight of the Saviour was swelling the desire of his soul.

We may hear remark, that curiosity to see and hear some popular preacher, is with many men a leading circumstance to conversion. They are not indeed called and noticed by name, but by character; and they obtain a fair portrait of their own heart.

A sight of Jesus is essential to conversion. To see the Holy One who made the blind to see, was a sight worthy of heaven; and a sight which patriarchs and prophets had desired in vain. Oh the beauty and glory of his person, his offices, his kingdom, and his grace. What heart would not be ravished with the sight?

The pressure of the carnal crowd greatly obstructs a sight of Jesus. They are so full of the world; they obtrude it on our eyes and ears in such a throng as to make the pleasures and bustle of the age, and even the gifts of God, a veil to hide him from us. Hence we must make exertions, and surmount difficulties, as Zaccheus climbed the tree, to get a sight of the Saviour.

Christ takes particular notice of those who are desirous of seeing him, and invites himself to their hearts and houses. Grace delights to shed its favours in the longing heart. It is ever ready to cherish and gratify every good affection excited in the mind. Ministers indeed do not know, like the Lord, how to call men by name; but in their daily visits and walks, the same Lord will not be wanting to guide them to the proper objects of ministerial care.

The grace conferred on notorious sinners in their conversion, is often so copious as to confound and revolt the self-righteous world. The pharisees murmured because Jesus went to Zaccheus’s house; yet there was no heart, no house in Jericho, that would have made him half so welcome. Christians should therefore associate immediately with sinners on their becoming penitent, though they be not formally received into the church. The Lord hath bound us by doctrine and example to afford them every means of recovery; and if we treat them with a rigorous distance, their good impressions will die away.

Nothing but the distinguished and constant fruits of repentance will demonstrate the conversion of men who have made a daring progress in vice. Zaccheus made restitution, nor was there any merit in the deed; we admire it because it is rare. He did more; he gave the half of his goods to the poor. Admirable proof that the love of God was shed abroad in his heart; admirable proof that the energies of grace had renovated his soul. All Jericho could not have persuaded him to do this, had not this sacred influence expanded his heart, as the warmth of summer expands the foliage of the earth.

Christ pronounces all sinners who attain this love and these fruits, in a state of salvation, and to be the true children of Abraham. Zaccheus was no doubt a son of Abraham according to the flesh, as the woman mentioned in Luke 13:16 was a daughter of Abraham; but now he was also a son according to the promise.

To encourage all men to repentance was the grand mission of Christ; he came to seek and to save sinners deeply lost, like Zaccheus the publican. How godlike was the task: may all the glory redound to his name.

On our Saviour’s tears over Jerusalem.

It is noticed that the tears, the groans and prayers of the Redeemer at the grave of Lazarus, John 11:33-41, were addressed to the Father, that the jews might believe that he, the Shiloh, was sent of God. Therefore these were the tears and prayers of Christ in his glorious person as the Messiah. By consequence, it is a gross error to contend that these were merely human tears; it degrades his intercessions to an equality only with those of other prophets and martyrs. Such were the sighs of Moses, over the incorrigibleness of the people of Israel, when speaking in the name of the Lord. “Oh that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me always.” Such were the rivers that ran down David’s eyes, when he thought of the wicked who keep not God’s law. Psalms 119:136. The Lord certainly foresaw those temporal calamities which followed upon their spiritual blindness. The prayers and sorrows of St. Paul for unbelieving Israel, that they might be saved, are likewise of the same description. Romans 9:2-3. These however were only so many streams from that ocean of love and compassion which dwelt in the bosom of our blessed Redeemer.

His sorrows flowed for the loss they had sustained in not knowing the day of their visitation, a day now for ever past and gone. Oh if thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace; for the covenant of my peace from the spiritual Zion shall never be removed. The prayer then is, Oh that thou hadst, on seeing my miracles, such as no other prophet ever performed, believed in me as the Messiah; then thy glory had remained as the Zion which God had chosen, and the people with whom the Lord would dwell.

The same Saviour still weeps over the darkness, contumacy, and atheism of the christian world. Little, ah little is our boasting over the jews. The name of Jesus we do not know, because he has not saved us from our sins. What do we more than heathens? Europe has often been deluged with blood, and seen in flames; yea, a Gaulic senate conspiring against the Lord, and against his anointed. Alas, alas, a socinian philosophy substituted for the glorious gospel of the blessed God. Oh altar, altar. Thou idol of human reason, devoid of the atonement, and abhorred of God. For this altar men forsake the cross, the only anchor of the sinner’s hope.

The lamentation of Christ over Jerusalem was an unexampled discovery of his love to sinners. Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets. Short and broken are the words of real grief. Cæsar said to Brutus, who pierced him with other assassins, — “And thou my son!” Here is love to a nation who, down to that very age, had stoned the prophets. Love to be found in religion only, — a moral proof of its divine origin. What encouragement is this, we may infer, for sinners the most abandoned to repent and turn to God. His tears still fall, his elegies are still heard, his arms are still extended to gather sinners as a hen gathereth her tender brood under her wings.

But those fine periods of richer grace have their limits. Oh if thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace. Our best divines, Baxter, Shower, Howe, Saurin, and the German Drexilius, contend for a day of grace.

“This day,” says John Howe, “supposes a preëxistent night, when the dayspring from on high had not visited their horizon; the times at which the Lord winked. The God of thy life, sinner, in whose hands thy times are, doth limit thee to the present time, and expects thy present answer to his offers and demands. He circumscribes thy day of grace; it is enclosed, and hath an evening and a morning.

“Here perhaps you will expect to be told, what are the limits of this day of grace. I answer, there is a difference as to the ends or seasons of this day with regard to particular persons, and particular cities. It may be over with regard to a particular city, and not yet over with regard to the persons that dwell there; and the day may be over with regard to particular persons, when it is not over with the place.

“As to particular persons, there may be much difference between those that know the gospel, and those who live in total ignorance. The day of grace may yet be revived in the former, while through ignorance it becomes extinct in the latter.

“As death ends the day of grace with every unconverted person, so it is very possible it may end with divers before they die, by the total loss of means, and the departure of the Holy Spirit from them, so as to return and visit them no more. If the Spirit of the living God do no way animate the revelation of the gospel, we have no day of grace.

“It is plain that many a one may lose the gospel before the end of life, by sinning in total apostasy, and by doing despite to the Spirit of grace. My people, says God, would not hearken to me, and would have none of my reproof. Psalms 81:11-12. Therefore he that is filthy, let him be filthy still. Revelation 22:11. Oh stay with us, good Lord, and bear with us still.” — Howe’s Sermon on Luke 19:41-44.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Luke 19:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/luke-19.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 5th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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